I never thought I would write about this, yet here I am staring at a blank screen getting ready to share with the world the very intimate words of my father as he lay on his death bed. Why? I ask myself, but I already know the answer. Because God’s desires speak to my heart in whispers that only get louder and louder until I listen to them. Needless to say those whispers are now shouting and this is me responding.
If you have followed my column you know that I often speak of my wonderful father and his restless soul. One that took us on a journey around America and inside of different cultures and faiths. Yes, my father was a seeker; a searcher of all the mysteries of this world and the world to come. I guess I come by it honestly because I was his partner in this spiritual quest for answers.
It should be no surprise then that the very first thing I ever had published was a poem when I was sixteen years old about the misunderstood, the seekers and searchers, titled “No Man Knows”.
No man knows
The footprints in the snow
For no man knows
The things I long to know
No man knows
The heart that is so bright
For no man knows
The things I feel are right
No man knows
The things that I do see
For no man can see me
The way that I see me
At the time of my father’s illness and subsequent death, he was living 8 hours away from us in North Carolina. I didn’t get to be with him as much as I wanted to, and it broke my heart. We were as close as a father and daughter could be. We did talk on the phone daily until even talking became too difficult for him.
In fact, the last phone conversation I had with him was one of the hardest and saddest moments of my life. I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store when my phone rang. In an almost inaudible voice, I heard the faintest sound of my father on the other end asking me if he had been a good father.
The Last Conversation
I immediately started to cry and ran out of the grocery store.
He never said another word as he listened to me telling him how amazing he was and what a wonderful life he gave us. My brother and I were the recipients of two loving parents and moving around the country and being exposed to different cultures, people and religions was the greatest experience of my life, I shared.
After all, how many children can say that within a one-year span of time they would be walking the streets of New York City and next learning to drive (underage) on an Indian reservation in Arizona. My childhood was rich with all kind of experiences that only he and his adventurous spirit could have given our family. I thanked him and through many tears told him how much I loved him.
With a strained breathy voice, he squeezed out ‘I love you’ as we said goodbye. It would be the last audible words I would hear him say.
Shortly after that call my husband John and I went to see him. We were greeted by his incredible wife Loraine who appeared as angelic as always. After my mother’s death, my father was blessed with another angel in her and she took impeccable loving care of him. Her spirit filled the room as she led us to my father who laid in their bedroom.
I do not have much of a poker face and I prayed that my face did not reflect the shock of seeing my strong handsome Dad lay unrecognizable, motionless and frail. The rare liver illness he had left his skin darker than normal and what once was a tall, strong, healthy, active man was now a distant memory.
As I approached his bedside he slowly and painfully moved his finger to his nose while he tried so hard to say something, but could not. He did however continue to tap his nose. It was hard to watch him try to tell me something yet not have the energy or breath to do so. In order to fight back my tears I tried to make a joke about it saying, “Dad are you trying to say I have a big nose?” He just looked straight into my eyes as if to tell me no! He tapped his nose repeatedly, this time as he looked at me and I at him.
He desperately tried to get the words out, but was unable to do anything but tap his nose. Until I finally said, “are you trying to tell me YOU KNOW”?
With that, a big sigh was released and his arm fell to the bed as if it was the last bit of strength he had. Still looking at me eye to eye, he blinked and ever so slightly nodded his head, yes. Then the slightest smile came across his face leaving me with no doubt of what he was trying to say.
My father, the seeker and searcher of truth, was telling me the search was over. He finally had the answers to the questions he was searching for his whole life; his soul can rest. He now knew what no man knows and with that he gave me his last and greatest gift as now my soul can rest for him. Life is mysterious.